By Elizabeth Vance
It’s officially the Year of Georgia Music and the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival returns for its 23rd year to Thomson, Ga, located 30 miles west of Augusta, GA, on Saturday, May 7, 2016. This year’s festival promises all the roots and blues of a major music festival with the heart and soul only a small southern town can provide.
The 2016 lineup is brimming with talent and headlined by nationally acclaimed guitarist Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters. Also bringing in the blues from throughout the country are notable artists Buckwheat Zydeco, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, The Cash Box Kings, The Deslondes, and Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton.
In addition to a buffet of blues & roots music, the festival will be serving up delectable regional dishes from a variety of local vendors. Gates for the daylong festival will open at 11 a.m. Tickets are $30 and are on sale now through www.BlindWillie.com.
Aspiring attendees will receive a $5 discount off ticket prices when they book overnight accommodations in Thomson for the festival with the new Stay and Save Package. Tickets are cash only and will be available for pick up at the hotel upon arrival. Overnight guests will also receive a vintage Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival collectible poster with their stay. Reserve rooms directly with participating Thomson hotels: White Columns Inn, Hampton Inn and Comfort Inn.
The festival debuted in 1993, to honor the music and spirit of Blind Willie McTell, a McDuffie County native and pioneer of the 12-string guitar whose influence notably reached The Allman Brothers Band, who famously covered McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” and Bob Dylan, who paid tribute to McTell in his 1983 song “Blind Willie McTell.” The festival has continued to grow since its inception and is still staged in the same grassy field it debuted in.
Be sure you check in on Friday night before the festival and catch the show: Blind Willie’s Blues, a documentary about Blind Willie McTell’s life and music. The film will be screened at the Thomson Depot at 7 p.m. and is free of charge.
New this year is a public art project titled McTell’s 12 String Strut; a project meant to further recognize and honor the legacy of Blind Willie. The project was initiated by the Thomson-McDuffie County CVB and is a project that will be a combination of art and history. This project will educate visitors and locals about the life of Georgia musician, Blind Willie McTell, through visuals and audio.
Artists for the project have already been selected and are working on their unique designs now. There will be a Reveal Party at the Thomson Depot on March 18, 2016 at 6:30 pm (free and open to the public). The guitars will then be installed in approved locations throughout the city and county. The core area for the guitars will be in the Downtown/Main St. area of Thomson, GA. The downtown display location will include an audio box with the guitar that will play samples of Blind Willie McTell’s music as well as tell his story. The intended length of the display is 3 years.
For more information about Thomson visit www.VisitThomsonGa.com; for more information about the festival, visit www.BlindWillie.com; and for more information about McTell’s 12-String Strut, visit www.mctells12stringstrut.com.
Elizabeth Vance has been the Director of the Thomson-McDuffie County CVB for 8 years. A lifelong Georgia resident, she is passionate about Georgia Tourism. For more information about the Thomson area, contact Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.